29 April 2009


I've just read about a book, "Fresh" by Susanne Freidberg. She also posts at the NY Times Freakonomics blog.

Just what is "fresh"? What does Prof. Freidberg sense contemporary culture means by the word fresh? How is that meaning applied by marketers keen to use it, keen to sell it? There was a time in my lifetime when this question would never have been asked. Why do we need to ask it now?

My Grandpa Savage produced eggs, strawberries, veggies, apples, and more on his family farm. He manned a roadside stand. He sold fresh. An income stream depended on it and his customers knew they were purchasing fresh. In other words folks knew that Mr. Savage's tended hens that lay the eggs he sold and he tended trees that produced the apples he sold. He was known by some as "the eggman." Grandpa Savage was authentic and unspun. When asked by my father "When was the best time to prune the orchard trees?" Grandpa Savage replied, "When the shears are sharp."

When it comes to food I think fresh is a vitality. It's a taste, odor, and color that is retained in the foods preparation, its eating, and our perception of its nutritional value. This quality feels authentic. Fresh is not rotten. We still know what rotten is, but it's getting harder to sense and identify. Fresh is getter even harder to sense and identify because so much rides on the maintenance of fresh foods for sale. As we travel further from the origin of our food chain we travel closer to the premeditation of our spin. As a result fresh is now a cultural idea in our culture of mass consumption.

Ms. Freidberg says the appeal of the word fresh,
lies in the anxieties and dilemmas borne of industrial capitalism and the culture of mass consumption. This culture promotes novelty and nostalgia, obsolescence and shelflife, indulgence and discipline. It surround us with great abundance, but not with much that feels authentic or healthful. It leaves many people yearning to connect to nature and community but too busy to spend much time in either. Above all, it's a culture that encourages us to consume both as often as possible and in ever better more enlightened ways. . . . Of all the qualities we seek in food, freshness best satisfies all these modern appetites.
Look at the coolpix image of shimp at the top of the page. We ate some two times, 3 lbs total, on St. George Island, FL. It was caught the day we ate it. Look at the color vitality. It tasted as good as the color looks.

We live in a culture of extraordinary abundance that is quite real. Our culture of mass communication and industrial big-agra capitalism surrounds us with grandiose notions of our abundance. Simultaneously we corrode our natural ability to recognize what is authentic and healthful. As a result I sense there is much that does not feel fresh. What does the word "fresh" in Fresh Market mean? How many of the foods sold actually are fresh? How are the foods in the Whole Foods market whole? What does "whole" mean?

Marketing and ads tell us what we need or don't have. As a result deflecting attention from what we do have. I remind myself of rebuking my whining child. "Stop looking at what you don't have and start looking at what you do have!"

We like fresh. We want fresh. In fresh I hope to connect to nature, to health, and to a larger community. We are too busy to spend much time in nature or community. We spend little time with nature. Nature becomes the weather channel. Nature is no longer our food chain and in the chain fresh is corroded.

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